By Bemgba Iortyom, Makurdi
On Tuesday, 26th June, 2018, Nigeria’s senior national football team, the Super Eagles, played their last group match against Argentina at the ongoing 2018 World Cup Finals in Russia.
As we may all know, Nigeria lost by 2 goals to 1 and there has since been the usual recriminations over why Super Eagles lost.
However, a new and indeed sad dimension did spring up in the debate, with some Nigerians outrightly celebrating the loss, their reason being that, with the ongoing pogrom in the country, occasioned mostly by attacks against unarmed peasant farmers by Fulani herdsmen, Nigeria did not deserve to continue in the tournament.
“With so much blood flowing in the country from the havoc being wreaked by the knives and bullets of the herdsmen, our priority certainly cannot be the World Cup”, argued a neighbour earlier today.
Some of those holding such view also pointed to the fact that the Nigerian team failed to wear black arm-bands in acknowledgement of the unfortunate bloodletting back home in the country, and that is exactly my point of observation here.
Should the Super Eagles have worn black arm-bands last night in Russia? The answer to that question is yes.
And had they done so, what would they have achieved? Methinks they would have in one stroke beamed global attention on the killings in Nigeria in a way as has never before been done.
What an opportunity missed, then.
Super Eagles as a team of international sportsmen are global ambassadors, not only for Nigeria, but for humanity as large.
Therefore, standing on the highest stage of international sports that night, they had a rare opportunity to have echoed the cries of the helpless peasants trapped in the villages and hamlets of rural Nigeria, at the mercy of inhuman herdsmen intent on exterminating them, with hardly any one to protect them.
The singular act of Eagles players wearing black arm-bands that night in Russia would have pricked the conscience of the international community and initiated the situating of the the crisis on the table of global discourse.
This is what has been lacking all along in this crisis, yet there is no gainsaying the fact that global attention is a pre-requisite to finding solution to any crisis anywhere in the world of the type and magnitude of the killings in Nigeria.
With global attention come international multilateral pressures and co-operative efforts targeted to protect the weak against the oppression and criminality of stronger groups, such as that of Fulani herdsmen against the helpless peasants in Nigeria presently.
Barcelona and Spain international defender, Gerald Pique, had staged several acts of protest at Barcelona’s Nou Camp playground, against the suppression of the right to self determination of the people of his native Catalonia, despite that those protests drew the displeasure of the Spanish authorities and even some of his team mates.
Yet he stood up for what he believed was right and the objective of drawing global attention to the injustice being suffered by his people has been substantially achieved, even if not by his protests alone.
Super Eagles players in Russia last night had the power and opportunity to have raised a hand up for the helpless Nigerian peasants being killed in droves by Fulani herdsmen, but they chose instead to be mute a gave the impression nothing was wrong.
This was an act of cowardice, to say the least, lacking in patriotism and human empathy, especially considering that the captain of the Super Eagles, Mikel Obi, was born and raised in Jos, the capital city of the affected Plateau State, and to date his family is still resident there.
And so the silence lingers, as the people, the aged, women and children inclusive, continue living in terror in the villages and rural settlements of Nigeria, not knowing when and where next the knives and bullets of the herdsmen will descend in this continuing harvest of death.
If over 200 lives wasted in Plateau State in one night was not tragic enough to prick the consciences of our players in Russia last night, then it’s not clear what will prick such consciences.
What a missed opportunity.
Bemgba Iortyom observes as a concerned Nigerian Citizen.